London, UK - Elephant Studios at LSBU is a new £4 million media complex built to provide cutting-edge production facilities to the School of Arts and Creative Industries students at London South Bank University (LSBU), as well commercial clients from summer 2016. The studios were officially opened on February 8th 2016 by television executive and former Chair of the BBC, Lord Michael Grade and include a new sound studio with Dolby Atmos capability and an SSL AWS 924 δelta console.
Justin Randell is the Director of Elephant Studios at LSBU and also Course Director of the university's Sound Design degree. He was instrumental in putting together the initial specifications for the project, which aims to encourage students to collaborate across all media. "The sound studio design, for example, recognises the changing landscape of music production in education," he explains. "...A move to a more industry-focussed approach.
"The Sound Design course is a hybrid - looking at aspects of music technology, but also how it applies to post production and game audio production, as well as conventional music production."
It was important for Randell to provide a versatile sound studio that could be used for anything from teaching analogue signal flow to producing film sound in Dolby Atmos. He and project consultant Bill Ward from Langdale Technical Consulting, along with other lecturers from LSBU, visited a variety of commercial music, post, and games facilities to pick out the best ideas for incorporation into Elephant Studios at LSBU. One that stood out in particular was Factory Studios in London, where they use an AWS 948 in a multi-purpose studio designed for music recording, dialogue, and sound design in a huge range of productions.
"At the same time I was also working with various Dolby Atmos projects in cinema," continues Randell. "So I had a conversation with Dolby about what we could do at a university level to teach Atmos and integrate it with the SSL workflow."
The SSL AWS series are hybrid consoles that combine classic SSL SuperAnalogue™ console technology with comprehensive DAW control, including the new δelta-Control plug-in technology that allows the AWS automation to be read, written, and edited using standard DAW automation lanes.
For Randell and his team, the AWS 924 was a perfect fit. "The SSL is the backbone of the project," he states. "It's the centre piece of the whole studio. It combines the DAW side of things with the I/O matrix to make the Dolby Atmos feasible, and also allows us to integrate all those lovely classic analogue toys that we have, so we can teach signal flow in a proper way.
"Because the SSL goes all the way up to 5.1 we can use it to teach standard surround. When we switch to 7.1, 9.1, and then to Atmos we then switch to a matrix and the SSL becomes the session controller."
Randell values not only the versatility of the AWS, and the SSL sound - noting that transparency is vital to the studio's post production roles - but explains that an exceptional analogue path is critical to his students' development: "The studio isn't just for Atmos production; it's there to provide a rounded learning experience. That's where the analogue side comes into its own... In my view that's the best way to do it."